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Book News for Tuesday, September 18, 2007

  • What We Talk About When We Talk About Dave: If you missed our very own Dave Weich at last week's National Book Critics Circle panel, rest easy — he's written an essay for the NBCC blog Critical Mass, "about the question of whether promotiong and critical culture can coexist."

    A trade secret I'll share: Booksellers read reviews to confirm or deny suspicions we have about books we haven't yet read. We can't read everything. There's simply not enough time. So we ask, "What did PW say?" "Did Kirkus like it?" Often we'll take a chance with a title -- or we won't -- depending entirely on how it's been described by a reviewer we trust; the next thing we know, we've read it, enjoyed it, and told dozens (if not hundreds or, online, thousands) of people to give it a try.

    Read the rest of Dave's essay here — and don't miss this handy recap of the panel.

  • Testing the Testers: Fresh from the Columbia Journalism Review's books issue: Linda Perlstein explains why she felt she had to leave the Washington Post to write her book Tested: One American School Struggles to Make the Grade.

    From the time I started writing about education for the Post in 1998 until I quit in 2004, I was given a lot of freedom to delve into issues I thought important, and a lot of inches, too. In addition to my daily duties covering school systems, I wrote 3,000-word magazine pieces; I wrote A1 trend stories; I wrote a four-part series about life in middle school, a topic I pursued further in book form, on leave from the Post. But neither I nor even the paper’s greatest stars would ever have been able to write for the Post what I thought the country really needed at the time: an honest, sweeping, in-depth criticism of how elementary education has changed in the era of standardization and testing.

    I think we'll have turned a page once and for all when students no longer have to use a number two pencil on standardized test forms, or have to worry about making their marks dark and filling in the entire bubble lest the correcting machine misread the answer. When that happens, we will all be free.

  • Viva la France: France has just announced that the film version of Marjane Satrapi's Persepolis will be its entry in next year's Best Foreign Film Oscar category.

    The film has been picked up for U.S. release by Sony Pictures Classics. The website says it's "Coming 2007 to a theatre near you" — though just when in 2007 it doesn't specify. Meanwhile, here again is the international trailer:

    And the standing ovation the film (and co-director Satrapi) received at this year's Cannes Film Festival:

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Brockman is the head writer for the daily Book News posts on the Powells.com blog. In his free time he's hard at work on his fictional memoir, which changes titles daily.

The views and commentary posted by Brockman are entirely his own, and are not representative of the whole of Powell's Books, its employees, or any sane human being.

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